Tony Award-winning actor Roddy McDowall, whose career included family films, science fiction pictures, Broadway musicals and senior stage roles, died Oct. 3 in Los Angeles. The cause was cancer. He was 70.
British-born on Sept. 17, 1928, McDowall was known for his childhood roles in such films as "Lassie, Come Home," "My Friend Flicka" and "How Green Was My Valley."
Theatre buffs remember his tart musical performance singing "The Seven Deadly Virtues" in Camelot in 1960. He played Mordred, King Arthur's evil son, opposite Richard Burton. The performance is preserved on the show's original cast album.
He made his Broadway debut in 1953 in Misalliance. In 1960, he won a best supporting actor Tony Award for playing Tarquin Edward Mendigales in Jean Anouilh's Time's Fool (also called The Fighting Cock ).
In August, a 30th-anniversary cable re-broadcast of "Planet of the Apes" (1968), in which he played the evolved chimp, Cornelius, introduced him to a new generation. An "Apes" retrospective special on American Movie Classics, with McDowall as host, was his last major TV appearance. In 1995, McDowall played the inspector in a national tour of Frederick Knott's Dial M for Murder with Nancy Allen and John James. It was Allen's first major stage role, and critics breathed a sigh of relief when the classy McDowall came on stage. His elegance and style drew some of the tour's best reviews.
Nancy King, assistant to the tour's Detroit-based producer, Alan Lichtenstein, often called McDowall at home during preparation of the tour. "He was such a gracious man," King told Playbill On-Line Oct. 5. "He was such a gentleman, so accommodating...not a 'star' and not a feeling of 'attitude.' It was a thrill to (eventually) meet him when the show came to Detroit."
McDowall's family fled a German-bombarded London in 1940 and settled in Los Angeles, where his innocent, waif-like looks earned him contracts at Twentieth Century Fox and MGM. He appeared as Malcolm in Orson Welles' film version of Macbeth in 1948.
Among his other films are "The Poseidon Adventure," "Bedknobs and Broomsticks," "Cleopatra," "The Greatest Story Ever Told" and "The Longest Day." He won an Emmy Award for best supporting actor for NBC's "Not Without Honor."
McDowall, who was also a celebrated, published photographer, was diagnosed with cancer in April. He was never married. He is survived by a sister, Virginia McDowall, of Los Angeles.
In recent years, McDowall appeared in six productions of California Artists Radio Theatre, whose artistic director Peggy Webber called him "one of my most favorite people. His sensitivity and fairness, his honorable behavior and his dedication to his work will always be the hallmark of his beautiful spirit."
-- By Kenneth Jones and Will Manus